As well as the questions on the Lib Dems, covered in the article above, ICM’s latest poll also had some surprising figures on Gordon Brown and Ken Clarke. The poll suggests that, with Clarke and Brown as party leaders the Conservatives would fall back very slightly (almost exacly echoing the YouGov poll in last week’s Sunday Times), but unlike the YouGov poll Gordon Brown would not boost Labour, rather it would be the Lib Dems who would benefit from the change.

This is an unusual poll to say the least. So far every poll that had asked how people would vote with Gordon Brown in charge has shown an increase in the Labour vote, often a huge one. As an example, two days before the general election YouGov asked how people would vote if Gordon Brown was leader – the Labour lead went from 4% to 13%.

The topline figures in this month’s ICM poll appear to be CON 31%, LAB 40%, LD 21% – the figures for an imaginary election with Brown and Clarke as leader are CON 30%, LAB 38%, LD 25%, so far from increasing the Labour vote, it suggests that Brown would drive some voters towards the Liberal Democrats.

This is a dramatic turnaround. It could be that the earlier questions in the poll that asked people if they were more or less likely to vote for the parties with difference leaders, and asked them to place themselves on a left-right scale compared to each party influenced their answers, or it could simply be that Gordon Brown has suddenly fallen in the public’s estimation. The poll was taken when the media spotlight was on fuel tax, an issue where Gordon Brown took a main role in defending the government’s stance – perhaps that affected his support. Either way, this poll does cast some sort of doubt on the accepted wisdom that Gordon Brown’s accession will be an immediate boost for the Government.

Incidentally, the tables in the pdf file for the Brown/Clarke voting intention on the Guardian’s website do not match the figures in the article, which suggests that ICM have (rightly for purposes of comparison!) made the same sort of adjustment for the spiral of silence as they do in there main voting intention polls.

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